Staff Spotlight: TJ Geist Anderson

5 Minutes to Start the Day ~ Mindfulness Sessions at ARCH
March 30, 2017

How long have you been involved in ARCH? How did you get involved?

I’ve worked at ARCH for 8 and a half years. I moved from New York City and was looking for a job in this field that I would like. I saw the job advertised for a DTA leader at ARCH and went for it and got it.

Tell me a bit more about your background?

I was born in Wyoming and raised in Colorado. I majored in Theatre and English at College with minors in Women’s Studies and History. I went on to run a small theatre company in Colorado and later did my Graduate MFA in Acting with the Asolo Conservatory in Florida and England. It was during this time that I worked a lot with members of the Special Needs community as our theater partnered with an organization very similar to ARCH. That experience changed my life and I am sure contributed hugely to my work today.

Why do you like working with this community?

It’s so fulfilling seeing the growth of the participants at ARCH, seeing those moments of recognition and understanding from them on a day to day basis. When I was 9 my dad took me to his school for Developmentally Disabled students and I said something mean about the kids there. He knew I wasn’t great at Math so he gave me one of their math tests. I failed it. My dad then said “We all have things we are slow to learn and we are all geniuses at something. It’s my job to find out my student’s genius.” This had a big impact on me.

What programs do you run at ARCH?

I codirect ‘The Company’, ARCH’s performing arts theatre group, with Grace Jones, as well as being the point person for our performances. I also direct, lead and teach the ARCH Angels choir. In May of 2016, I also took on the role of STEPS to Health & Wellness Coordinator.

What are benefits you have seen in your own experience of these programs?

I want participants to have a great quality of life and for them to achieve health & wellness in their lives. I love being able to help them with this. Performing Arts with them is the same. The Theater is my church and my own greatest moments in life have been in the theater, my most exciting and fulfilling moments. So of course, I want to give my participants the same; the same sense of fulfillment and self-worth, the ‘high’ that comes from performing.

What do you think is unique about ARCH?

Every time I do a tour for people at ARCH I tell them how we don’t run it like a school and divide people up based on their functioning levels. At ARCH the participants act as each other’s caretakers and role models. There is more of a symbiotic relationship going on between people. They help each other. It gives those who are naturally nurturers a chance to be nurturers. You see participants helping each other solve problems, sharing their gifts with their peers.

Where do you see ARCH being in 10 years time?

• Simply put that we are all healthier and happier than we are now and flourishing!
• That we have developed so many significant partnerships to have our own dental clinic and that we are able to get the medical and dental needs of all our participants met.
• That our participants will have fantastic physical and emotional health.

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